Country-western favorites and folk ballads, a little bluegrass, some pop and a few nostalgic Beatles numbers were all part of a recent Village String Band rehearsal for a November 15 concert at Clubhouse 5.
Guitars and ukuleles, bass, piano, fiddle, banjo, some keyboards and drums were in the mix, and vocalists added eclectic accents.
Judging by the line-up, the band wants to inspire an ever-widening audience.
“Musically we have a lot of variety, from Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Do You Believe in Magic’ to The Beatles’ ‘In My Life’ to Harry Belafonte’s ‘Island in the Sun’ and songs by Hank Williams,” guitarist said Debbie Byrne who joined the String Band in 2016. “People come by when we rehearse (in the Clubhouse 1 Art Room) and stop and listen. It makes a lot of fun.”
The age range of the approximately 30-year-old band is wide, the musicians of different skill levels.
The band consists of more than 20 musicians between the ages of 50 and 80. This includes professionals who play in other groups – Woods Combo and RetroFits, Rock of Ages and Bluegrass Outlaws – as well as advanced enthusiasts. There are also relative beginners – as long as they can keep up with the band, they’re in.
Enthusiasm is the glue that binds the musicians, and everyone can join in and help each other through the difficult parts. Everyone is free to suggest new music or songs, which the group then votes on.
“It’s a democratic process,” said guitarist Debbie Smith-Shank.
The String Band normally performs once a year in the Spring but this year there is a second performance scheduled for Tuesday 15th November at 12pm in Clubhouse 5. Admission is at 11:30 a.m. Admission is $10. Bring your own food and drink.
The band is not just a Village Club, but part of the Saddleback Emeritus music program. Teacher Emeritus Alan Levin, a bassist and guitarist who plays in the Woods Combo, leads the String Band. His goal is to get his students/band members ready for a concert.
“I enjoy seeing everyone learn and grow,” he said. His own musical tastes gravitate toward the music of the 1960s — the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits, Monkeys and others that defined the decade, he said.
String Band President Sharone Rosen plays guitar and banjo and sings, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. She has been a synagogue cantor for 30 years and can also yodel.
“I enjoy making music with other people — it’s music I don’t make anywhere else,” Rosen said.
“I’m classically trained and sang in middle school. In college I majored in musical theater and after college I became interested in liturgical music,” she said.
Rosen’s career also included a 30-year stint as a radio DJ, playing country, rock and classical music and covering traffic. In her 40s she received her doctorate in chiropractic.
Along with her husband, pianist Mark Hochberg, Rosen also has a show on Village TV called Home With the Hochbergs, in which the couple showcase their love for different genres of music.
Rosen’s latest musical venture includes an all-female string band called Feisty Women, a quintet featuring a violinist, bassist and three guitars.
“I wanted something fun and interesting. We started rehearsals before COVID and are just getting started now,” she said.
In addition, Rosen also stars in Tales From the Woods, a soap opera on Village TV, which she co-writes.
With his wife already in the string band and he and Levin both in the Woods combo, Mark Hochberg felt like joining the string group was a natural fit. He’s been playing the piano since he was 5, he said, but mostly plays by ear rather than reading music.
“In the string band I have three or four chords and when I hear a song I can play it most of the time,” he said.
Smith-Shank, like Byrne, describes himself as “an old guitar-playing hippie”.
“I’ve been playing guitar for 50 years, but I’ve had other jobs and life took over,” she said.
Smith-Shank, a former arts administrator and professor of fine arts at Northern Illinois University and Ohio State University, moved to the Village after her retirement because her parents lived here and her sister lived nearby in Aliso Viejo. Smith-Shank now teaches acrylic painting at Clubhouse 4.
“I joined the Village String Band to follow a path I set aside for my career,” she said. “The moment I stepped through the door, that was my prize.”
She praised other band members for being willing to help her and was happy to play familiar songs.
“It’s so good for our health and our happiness and we’re getting better all the time,” she said.
For information about the Village String Band, contact Debbie Byrne at email@example.com or 949-610-9842.
https://www.ocregister.com/2022/11/13/laguna-woods-band-creates-musical-ties/ Laguna Woods Band Makes Musical Connections – Orange County Register